A Kiwi in Singapore
Meet Sohadi Yes, a 2019 Prime Minister's Scholarship for Asia recipient who studied at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.
"Cheh mok pi rean, mean mok pi rok."You learn from studying; you gain wealth from working.
This is a Khmer proverb that is closely associated with the sound of my mum tossing fried rice in the kitchen, before sending me off to school.
As blunt as the English translation may sound, this emphasis on constant learning and working hard is a guiding principle that has paved my path from a young age.
Growing up, I have always been fascinated with the differing cultures that surrounded me. My primary school, Kahurangi School in New Zealand’s capital city, fostered a whanau-centred environment which exposed me to the beautiful Māori and Pasifika traditions, encouraging me to value my own whakapapa: my heritage as a second-generation Southeast Asian migrant.
As a child, I only ever travelled to my ancestral homeland of Cambodia. Every trip saw us transiting through the spectacle that is Singapore’s Changi Airport. My admiration for Singapore’s beautiful airport, coupled with my growing interest about Asian culture and cuisine, eventually blossomed into an impassioned desire to one day explore and study within the Lion City.
Funded by Education New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia, I embarked on an exhilarating student exchange from Massey University Wellington to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Once there, I fully immersed myself into a whirlwind of food, culture, travel, food, friendships, networking, and more food. I interacted with students from across the globe, befriending Singaporeans, Koreans, Germans, Americans, Canadians and perhaps the most foreign of all, Aucklanders.
As noted by Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, “We unite, regardless of race, language, religion, culture.”
This vision is very much alive today in the younger generation of Singaporeans I connected with. My fellow international students and I were completely enamoured by the kind-hearted nature of Singaporeans and their welcoming spirit.
Studying in a Bachelor of Communication, I attended classes at the ‘Wee Kim Wee’ campus building. Named after former journalist and president, Wee Kim Wee, the communication school offered exceptional facilities that included modernised newsrooms and televisual production sets.
Contrasted with my education in New Zealand, my courses were taught primarily through Asian lenses, with most assignments being tailored towards Singaporean society.
I enjoyed the collectivist culture of group work, and the great focus on primary research, with my coursework enabling me to meet locals and explore the city. This was a difficult yet incredibly rewarding learning experience, as I significantly broadened my worldview.
The personal growth I enjoyed on my exchange is something I am immensely proud of. My passion for intercultural learning has greatly deepened and has further shaped my future career goals, as I eagerly envision a long-term career within the Asia-New Zealand sphere.
If I could offer one piece of advice from my own grand adventure, it would be to open your mind and immerse yourself into your new environment. You will make friends, have fun, and have moments that will turn quickly into nostalgia.